I was a bit thrown when I came across this book in the school library, sure it looked like a comic aimed at the MG audience and was shelved appropriately, but it was published by Dark Horse and I can't think of any other kid's comics they've published, they have a very different kind of niche. Having read the story now I'm still confused, and I can find a few other versions of the book published by other publishers (the original three slim releases published by Antarctic Press and then a possible re-release a few weeks back, also by Antarctic but the Amazon information for it simply lists the publisher as Diamond Comic Distributors, although it sounds like that might not have been published since Amazon doesn't have any copies of it), would love to know the story behind all of that.
The Courageous Princess by Rob Espinosa
Summary: Princess Mablerose is a spirited young girl from a small kingdom and finds herself being kidnapped by a dragon in exchange for a ransom from her parents. Mablerose decides to try and escape on her own however, especially after hearing that no one has ever defeated the dragon and fearing for everyone's safety, and thus begins her adventures across the hundred kingdoms where she comes across many other fantastical creatures, friend and foe, in her journey to return home.
The Good: This story reminds me a lot of the fairy tales which I read as a kid which is high praise; it has a capable female protagonist who, even though she needs and receives help from all kinds of characters throughout the story (which is a staple of fairy tales anyway) is gracious enough to take help and clever enough to know when to best use it, knowing your own strengths is part of being a strong, mature person. Mablerose also takes initiative, when she's captured by the dragon she doesn't wait to see if help will eventually come but goes about engineering her escape and similarly in the animal kingdom doesn't hesitate when she sees a chance to free the king and save the country there. After seeing so many stories where the characters take a long time to think over their actions before they do them, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's nice to see someone basically jump in and improvise on the fly*.
The Bad: I have one really big question about this story, was that it?! As far as I can tell this volume is a collection of three shorter volumes and, while the last arc does resolve the problems brought up on it, it's left with a very big sequel hook yet as far as I can tell the story is nearly ten years old yet there hasn't been a second collection/fourth issue. There are so many things left unresolved (Mablerose isn't home, her father is away from home trying to find her, her mother is being courted by an unsavory gentleman while her husband is away) that I'm tempted to find Espinosa's email address and ask why there isn't more of this story out there. Normally I don't consider the fact something is on-going to be a bad thing but since this story seems to actually have been dropped I feel like I do need to warn people and it really put a damper on the entire story.
The Art: The comic is done in full color which is a great choice for a fantasy setting like this. The colors are bright and lively and, while the artwork isn't super detailed like some other comics, it has more than enough and overall is fun to look at. One thing I especially liked is that there is a small time skip in the story and Mablerose does look older as the series goes on. It's true that she might've aged too much for only a few month time skip but given how quickly kids can grow when they're right in that stage in puberty I can see it happening.
I was rather surprised at how much I enjoyed this story and would recommend it to the MG group wholeheartedly. I don't think I'll try to track down Rob Espinosa however, this is just such an odd cliffhanger that I just have to ask why there isn't more of this/if there are any plans for it.
*and not in the shonen jump protagonist sort of way.